It's difficult to put into words without sounding mean or judgemental, but I honestly have no idea how else to put this. Just note that I only have the best intentions for everyone and wish for the best case scenario.


I have a friend who I've always felt strange about. Whenever we chat, it always felt like some of the things I asked of her just didn't compute for her. This commonly occurred when I asked her to justify her opinions that she expressed. Usually, she wouldn't be able to in a manner that conveyed logic. All of her opinions sounded like she was just regurgitating BuzzFeed/Tabloid opinions.

Despite this, she was accepted into a few universities, so I didn't think much of it. I assumed that she must've been very smart academically (math, writing, who knows?). This all changed about a few hours ago.

Interestingly, this same friend is deciding to switch universities (for the 3rd time). Incidentally, we're applying to the same school. About a few days before the application deadline, she asked me to review her application.

I was quite surprised that someone who has so much experience applying to universities (and getting in too!) was asking the help of a community college sophomore with below average writing skills.

However, when I read her essay, I was completely dumbfounded. I am not a good writer, but even I could tell it was a terrible essay. She talked about celebrities, anime and tap-danced around sensitive racial subjects with ignorance I have never witnessed before. In a personal statement essay. The essay reeked of informality, lack of direction and any common sense.

When I asked her for her previous college application essays, they were significantly better in both vocabulary, sentence complexity, and story-telling. Almost as if they were written by a completely different person. When I asked her about this contrast, I was right: both of her previous essays were written by two separate friends. In other words, she got into the universities because of essays she didn't even write.

Attending these Universities were in no way beneficial to her either. She still has no idea what she wants to major in and her average GPA was barely 3.0. I almost felt bad for her. Being a sucker for guilt, I did the same task as her other two friends did. We stayed up late into the night and submitted the essay minutes before the deadline.

Now, I realize I was screwing my friend over if she got accepted into the university. Like her previous two friends, I was setting her up for failure.

Now, I'm just a mere community college student with a lot less university experience, but my grades are near perfect and I've peer-reviewed essays for a few of my friends that got accepted so I feel that I have some weight to my words/questions:

A) [Should I/Do I have the right to] tell her the following:

B) If I [should/do], how do I tell her that the University she's going to (if accepted) probably isn't going to work out for her if previous Universities didn't? To an extent, I am unafraid to bruise her feelings and I think she can take it. But how do I word it for minimal bruising?

Before any confusion happens: she's not a bad friend or bad person. Outside of this, I enjoy spending time with her in our social circles. I honestly think she's just desperate. Her father is also a PhD from MIT, so I imagine the pressure for her is pretty intense too. I don't think he knows she's doing poorly in school and I believe he's under the impression that the essays she submitted to previous universities were written by her.

  • If you people want to remain friends, you'll eventually have to reveal the truth. Doing it tactfully is the key. Make sure not to hurt her ego. If you are able to make her feel that you've got her back while you're at it, she'll understand what you say better, and you'll keep a friend. – user157 Feb 17 '18 at 0:58
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    Whether you should or not is your choice. We are not here to tell you what you should do in a situation. Tell us what you want to do and we will tell you how to achieve it. – Catija Feb 17 '18 at 19:21
  • You can try to post it on academia.stackexchange.com – bobflux Feb 19 '18 at 13:26

First, I think you're dramatically overestimating the impact of the personal essay on the admission decision. You need marks, and in some cases you also need reference letters and the "right" extra curriculars. Universities are not unaware that people get help with their admission essays, btw.

So, let's get to why your friend should not bother accepting this offer. Seriously, why? Is it that the tuition would be a waste of money? Whose? That the crushing feelings of rejection that will accompany failing out will be too hard to take? What are the downsides of going off to a program for which you are not qualified? You need to know this before you can proceed, and you cannot know this on your own or by guessing. Only your friend knows.

If I were in your shoes, I would want to know why your friend is changing programs. It's possible that your friend is in fact quite smart but needs to be in a program that's a good fit, that is motivating and enjoyable, and that will lead forward toward success. There is such a difference between changing universities because you found the program too hard or uninteresting, because they told you they were going to expel you, because you had a terrible breakup and want to get out of the city where the ex lives, because you miss your parents too much and want to get back to the city where they live, or because you realized during a summer job that some particular program is where you belong and your current university doesn't offer it.

I'm not sure why you want to be your friend's volunteer guidance counselor, but if you do, you should do a good job of it. Ask questions and listen to the answers. When you understand why your friend is switching universities, and what your friend hopes to get from this third one, you'll be able to help with reaching those goals. When you understand what the risks and downsides are, you'll be able to gently ask questions like "what if you fail a course?" or "what if this program turns out to be uninspiring too?" or "what if you don't make friends at the new place?" to help your friend see those risks.

You may end up "proving" that going to university is a waste. You may end up learning a lot about your friend and supporting those goals in a practical and ongoing way, far more than a late night essay rewrite. Or you may end up just shaking your head about how a seemingly sensible person can be so deluded, and wishing someone would bankroll you in that way when failure is the obvious outcome. But at least you'll be operating from knowledge and not just assumptions.

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  • +1! She has to find her own way, and asking questions is the way to go. I'd also ask (discreet) questions about the financial aspect - because while it may take her a few years to find her own way and that's normal, picking up a lot of student debt in the process should be avoided if possible. – AllTheKingsHorses Feb 17 '18 at 13:29
  • Just like to note that I have asked the questions you're basically raising in your post. She has yet to answer any of them, which is why I'm concerned. While initially taken aback by your answer, I do believe your answer makes the most sense. So thank you for that. – npengra317 Feb 18 '18 at 21:57

That's not something you would be able to bring up, and not have a fight on your hands. Quite simply, let nature run its course.

There's also no point in you telling her that she's a terrible student. Trust me, she's well aware. Offering the opinion that she should drop out is also not a good idea - she probably would, given the chance, but some pressure (probably fear of disappointing her accomplished parents) are keeping her feet to the fire.

Let her do her thing, and see what happens. If she fails, she fails. If she rallies, she rallies. If she asks for your help, offer it to the extent that you can.

The more important thing to keep in mind is to not let her drag you down with her (for example by writing her essays well into the night when you should be doing your own homework).

She'll have to find her own motivation and determination to succeed. If anything, you should offer advice in this area of her life.

If you want to help her find her path:

I would recommend (for the second time today) checking out some of the material that professor Jordan Peterson has posted on YouTube. You can ignore the political commentary, and go straight for his lectures discussing personal responsibility, and getting one's act together. He's published a book (12 Rules for Life) which is addresses this very subject, and may serve your friend well.

I have personally found his material to be very interesting, and have been inspired me to make some positive changes in my life. However, you could find some completely different material, and use that instead.

The way to broach the subject is to send her the video link, and tell her you think it's interesting. After giving her a couple of days to have watched it, talk it over with her. Discuss the points it brings up, and see if she feels at all inspired to make a change.

Get as involved (or not) with this process as you feel comfortable.

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    I like your answer and I would up-vote it. Except I don't know professor Jordan Peterson and I don't want to up-vote an answer with some part which I don't know (and to lazy to check out now). Maybe other people feel the same about this. I thought you might wan to know. – user8838 Feb 17 '18 at 3:52
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    @Edgar I totally agree... Although that book is great (I've read a bit of it a while ago), most OPs want an answer in the answer, not a reference that would need them to spend further time on. Why don't you (AndreiROM) just quote the relevant parts? – user157 Feb 17 '18 at 6:00
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    @AbhigyanC: Sometimes I like answers which point to further information. And if I would be the OP or if I would have a similar problem and no answer then I would probably watch that video. But I guess some of us just have a look at the questions and answers like reading the news - without wanting to follow further details. My comment was about up-voting because I don't want to up-vote something with a part which I don't know. So this answer would possibly be higher ranked without the reference to the video. – user8838 Feb 17 '18 at 7:24
  • @Edgar Peterson is not a nice guy. He targets the youth, propagandizes Christianity and Traditional Values and all such crap. He is not very intellectually honest and has an agenda. – Ans Mar 5 '18 at 10:43
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    @edgar - Ans is demonstrating quite the bias in his description of Peterson's material. I strongly urge you to check out some of Peterson's material and make up your own mind. Cheers. (btw, I noticed your comment as to IPS cliques, and I can't help but agree) – AndreiROM Mar 5 '18 at 15:31

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